By Avantpage

Open Enrollment for healthcare will soon be upon us, starting November 1, 2021, for 2022. Healthcare organizations have a big opportunity during this time to increase their membership in the Limited English Proficiency (LEP) population. Approximately 8% of the US population, both foreign and US-born, are considered Limited English Proficient. Providing culturally appropriate language services to this population in the form of educational materials, health plans, and support can be directly linked to increased member turnout. 

Why Healthcare Is So Important to the LEP Population 

Language barriers impact many aspects of healthcare. Data has shown that when language preference isn’t addressed in a clinical encounter, then low quality, unsafe, and costly care often occurs. Let’s look at healthcare in LEP communities. Here are just a few examples of how language affects healthcare

  • Non-English-speaking patients are less likely to seek preventive care and public health services. They’re more likely to use emergency rooms, and once there, they receive fewer services than English-speaking patients. 
  • Over 25% of LEP patients who needed an interpreter but didn’t get one didn’t understand the instructions for the medication. On the flip side, only 2% of patients who did have an interpreter or didn’t need one didn’t understand the instructions. 
  • LEP patients have: 
    • Longer hospital stays if an interpreter wasn’t available during admission and/or discharge 
    • Increased risk of surgical delays due to language barriers 
    • Increased chance of readmission due to not understanding instructions, medications, and post-care 

LEP communities are disproportionately represented among health inequities. In order to close these gaps, healthcare organizations can work towards equal language access while expanding their client base by providing culturally relevant translations and interpreting services.  

What Can Healthcare Organizations Do? 

Healthcare organizations have the opportunity to increase their membership and provide better customer service for long-term retention by providing language services to LEP consumers.  

#1 Proactively Integrate Language Services into Your Processes and Partner with Your LSP 

Be proactive by integrating language services into your internal processes for streamlined and effective collaboration with your LSP. Partner with your LSP to customize materials and services to meet LEP needs.  

LSPs also have tools and dedicated project managers to manage translated content that will increase consistency, quality, and save organizations money in the long run. For example, LSPs can create a glossary of approved terminology that’s repeatedly used throughout your content. The translators can then reuse this content throughout each translation project. A glossary ensures better consistency across the board of materials, and it saves money over time since only new content needs to be translated. LSPs are equipped with tools and resources to make the process efficient. 

#2 Translate Materials Through Your LSP 

Asides from translating vital documents required by law, translate your education and outreach materials into the necessary languages to support your LEP communities. An LSP will ensure that all materials are culturally appropriate for your audience to better connect with your clients. 

People will most likely go to a website to learn about open enrollment options, so you’ll want to translate your website content. In addition, it’s most helpful to have all enrollment materials translated, including paper and online applications, taglines, welcome kits, Evidence of Coverage (EOC) booklets, notices of change documents, and any other necessary materials. 

Beyond open enrollment, consider other materials to translate along each step of the patient journey, from pre-visit to visit to post-visit.  

#3 Educate and Train Those Who Interact with LEP Members 

Another thing healthcare organizations can do for the LEP community is to provide bilingual customer service agents, reps, and other types of job positions to service LEP customers. When hiring your own bilingual employees to provide translations or interpretations, consider using your LSP for Employment Assessments to ensure the quality of your products and services. They can also train their employees on culture, processes for requesting language services, and other materials to best communicate with LEP customers. Culturally competent staff can make the experience in providing meaningful communications with LEP communities. 

Conclusion

Healthcare organizations have an opportunity at Open Enrollment time, and throughout the year, to support their LEP communities with culturally relevant language services. A lack of understanding shouldn’t be a cause of poor healthcare. Healthcare organizations can work with an LSP to provide these culturally appropriate language services. In the end, quality care is equitable care.  

Avantpage Services to Support Open Enrollment and Healthcare 

Avantpage was founded on the idea of helping immigrants and other LEP populations through a variety of language services. We offer translation services, interpreters, and tools like a terminology database for healthcare organizations. To learn more, contact us at info@avantpage.com or (530) 750-2040.